Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern, Peter Krause, Naomi Watts, Sam Charles, Haili Page, Jennifer Bishop, Jim Francis, Amber Rothwell
Director: John Curran
Screenplay: Larry Gross
Rated: MA sexual references, medium level sex scenes, medium level coarse language
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Ordinary Lives. Extraordinary Emotions.
In their small New England college town, Jack Linden (MARK RUFFALO) and Hank Evans (PETER KRAUSE) are the best of friends. Fellow instructors at the university where Jack teaches literature and Hank, writing, the two enjoy the camaraderie of men who have shared interests and similar circumstances.
Both fathers of young children, the men's home lives, however, are markedly different. The Linden household is chaotic and cluttered; Jack's wife Terry (LAURA DERN) is a headstrong woman but a distracted homemaker, overwhelmed by the never-ending cycle of chores and bills in the struggle to keep up a house with two young children. Hank's Edith (NAOMI WATTS), on the other hand, keeps an immaculate home - quiet and tidy -- free of distractions for her husband, a writer with a bad case of writer's block, and their solemn daughter.
The couples have each other over for dinner often, enjoying the conversation and company, laughing and flirting as friends do. But Jack and Edith have been disappearing at the same time lately, and Terry is beginning to notice. One night, the two volunteer for a beer run, and Terry is left alone with Hank. Unexpectedly, Hank makes a move and kisses Terry.
With Terry and Hank's transgression, the delicate balance of denial and complicity has been upset, and the pretences fall away. The couples must sift through the layers of betrayal and self-deception to face their marriages, each other, and ultimately, themselves.
Based on the novella of the same name and combined with the short story "Adultery", both by Andre Dubus, this gritty and commanding drama sees problems arise between two couples, Jack and Terry (Mark Ruffalo and Laura Dern) along with Hank and Edith (Peter Krause and Naomi Watts) following indiscretions and infidelity.
Jack and Hank both teach at the local university, both in writing and literature, and have a friendship where the two couples often socialise, including Jack and Hank running together for fitness. We are introduced to find Jack and Edith having an affair, knowing the implications of their actions and the repercussions but they are swept along by the lust and passion of their liaison, unable to find a justifiable reason to leave their respective partners. Their flirtations with each other are almost so overt that it is a blind denial that neither Terry or Hank will address, yet they both have a subconscious feeling that their partners are emotionally involved and so begin their own careless flirtation.
There are so many shouting and slanging matches here, including some in front of Jack and Terry's children, with accusations flying everywhere as each couple eventually confront the tangled and damaged relationships they have after the truth is revealed. The angst amongst the players is rife and becomes overdone at times, taking the drama to a depth that hovers continuously on frustrating and tedious. The relentless pursuit of resolution to the two couples dilemma becomes tiresome and you just want it to stop.
Mark Ruffalo plays Jack as slack and laid-back and resigned to the inevitable, Laura Dern is good as a very highly-strung Terry, Naomi Watts is also great as Edith, who is in search of that "something" in her life and Peter Krause is a little disappointing as Hank, who could have had a bit more guts to his role.
Towards the end of the movie, it feels like being in the midst of a very hard labour and it gets pretty depressing and a little spooky in some scenes where the mental state of some of the characters is questionable but this is not explored which was very annoying - not a movie to see if you are after something uplifting.
Rating : **½